They say there is no friend better than a dog – and we agree!
As we usher in the Year of the Dog this Lunar New Year, we urge readers not to buy a dog on impulse. Keeping a dog, or keeping any pet, for that matter, is a huge responsibility and should be thought over carefully. It is irresponsible to keep a pet simply because it is auspicious or because everyone else is doing so.
In the last Year of the Dog in 2006, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) reported an increase in the number of suspected abandoned dogs. Too often, dogs are unceremoniously abandoned or left at an animal shelter when dog owners decide not to keep them any longer.
Therefore, this Lunar New Year, TISG offers some tips on things you should consider before getting a dog.
- Why do you want to keep a dog?
First and foremost, why do you want to keep a dog? It definitely should not be because it is auspicious or trendy, or because dogs are cute.
If the reason is because your child is pestering for one, we would encourage you to reconsider. A dog is not a one-time purchase to humour or reward your child. It is a life; it requires you to shower it with care and attention, and treat it as how you would a family member.
However, if you are looking for company and are able to commit to sharing some of your love, dogs make a good choice as companions. Dogs can serve people’s need to cherish and love, and can keep one happy and healthy. Dogs are also able to spice up your life and make you laugh with their antics.
- Time commitment
Dogs are social animals that need a lot of attention to be happy. Keeping dogs, therefore, takes up a lot of a dog owner’s time and energy. Dogs need adequate exercise daily – some multiple times a day, depending on their breeds – to keep both their bodies and minds healthy.
Depending on their breeds, some dogs are needier and require more of your attention than others. Thus, you must be prepared to attend to your dog’s needs at any time.
A lot of time will also be spent on dog training, and this requires patience and consistency. Puppies, especially, require the most work when it comes to training.
Be prepared to also spend time on menial chores such as feeding and cleaning the dog, and bringing it for visits to the vet.
- Financial commitment
The cost of keeping a dog is still relatively high. In addition to purchasing or adopting the dog, there are additional costs such as routine check-ups, food, housing, grooming, toys, and so on. Puppies are more expensive to upkeep, as they need to see a vet more often because of vaccinations or emergency visits.
Busy individuals will also have to factor in the costs of hiring a trainer and dog walker for their dogs.
That said, you do not need to be rich to own a dog; just be sure that you are able to comfortably provide for your dog for as long as it will live.
- What kind of dog do you want?
Choosing a dog based on how cute it is is a definite no-no. When dog owners fail to thoroughly understand the behaviour of the dogs they are getting, the tendency to abandon or sell them away becomes higher.
You should choose a dog that is suitable to your lifestyle and your surroundings. For example, some dogs require more exercise. If you are not an avid runner, do not get an active breed. Many people think that a dog will force them to exercise; most often, however, these dogs end up suffering when their needs are not met.
If you live in a small apartment, you should not be getting a large dog as it needs big spaces to run about. Furthermore, dog owners living in HDB flats must adhere strictly to the list of HDB-approved dogs.
We recommend research on the breed that is most suited to you, and be open to changing your mind if it is not what you envision as your ‘ideal’ pet.
- Planning ahead
Keeping a dog requires a commitment of up to 15, or even up to 20 years. It is thus extremely important to plan ahead before deciding to keep a dog.
Factors such as when you will be settling down, your children’s age, whether you are planning to have more children, whether you will change the type of house you live in, should be considered. Planning ahead ensures that you will be fully committed to caring for the dog long-term and not abandon it due to changes in your life.
Be prepared to also have less free time for the next 15 or so years of your life. Having a dog is akin to having kids – you will have to head home early after work, and even sacrifice weekends to take care of your dog.
If you have decided to get a dog, the next question would be whether to purchase or adopt one. Many dogs that are up for adoption have been mistreated or abandoned by their previous owners. By adopting, you will be able to give these dogs a new lease of life and the love it deserves.
There are many organisations in Singapore that offer dog adoption services, such as SPCA, Animal Lovers League (ALL), Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), Causes for Animals Singapore (CAS) and Adopt A Dog. They have staff and volunteers who are able to match you to a suitable pet and advise you on how to care for your new furry friend.
A dog is not only a man’s best friend, but also family. Dogs share a special bond with us – one that is difficult to replicate. Having a dog is bound to add some love and laughter into your life, and will be an extremely rewarding experience.
On this note, TISG would like to wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year!